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Chandler’s Career Solves for X(tra) Students Who Understand Math

Along the shores of Michigan’s Lake Huron — amid stunning sunsets shimmering on the water — that’s where you’ll find Dr. Kevin Chandler these days. After more than a decade as a pillar of Beacon College’s math department, the recently retired Michigan native has returned to his roots.

Chandler and his wife, retiring Provost Dr. Shelly Chandler, are rediscovering their hometown Alpena, a coastal town of natural beauty and cultural heritage, woven with memories of family, friends, and falling in love decades ago. Together, they have shown that, indeed, you can go home again.

“I actually used to say that — you can’t go home again,” said Kevin, a math professor and lab coordinator, citing the classic Thomas Wolfe novel. “But now I tell people Alpena is not the same little town it once was. So much has changed. There’s a tremendous arts community that didn’t exist when we grew up here. And that’s just one of the changes.”

kevin-chandler Chandler, now 64, looks at Alpena through a much different lens than 45 years ago when he was bent on leaving. Then newly married, the Chandlers wanted to pursue higher education, but in Alpena, they could only earn two-year degrees at the local community college. While Shelly balked at leaving their hometown, Kevin felt strongly it was time to go.

“That’s how I just knew he was the right one for me,” Shelly Chandler recalled. “It was his intellectual ability, his sense of adventure, and the feeling of ‘Hey, let’s not let Alpena hold us back.’ Let’s go get our four-year degrees and let’s take on the world.”

‘A natural born engineer’

Both would eventually earn bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees. Kevin focused on engineering and Shelly on psychology and counseling. Kevin recalled the pivotal moment in his academic career.

“My calculus professor in Alpena asked me if I had considered being an engineer — something I had never thought about,” Chandler said. “Well, he said I was a natural born engineer. I asked so many questions, and I was never satisfied until I got the right answer. I had to get to the bottom of a problem. And that’s what an engineer does.”

Chandler eventually studied engineering at Oakland University in the Detroit area, more than 250 miles away from Alpena.

Fresh out of college, Chandler worked at GM as a project engineer, then landed a job teaching at Lake Superior State University, on Michigan’s northern peninsula near Canada. While the work was good, the weather was brutal. They eventually moved to Florida where Kevin was hired by the Leesburg hospital as a management engineer specializing in operations and problem solving. Later, he taught math and computer science at DeVry University in Orlando and did a stint in the private sector with a small manufacturing firm, before joining Beacon in 2012.

Skyrocketing success rate

In his role at Beacon, Chandler taught and developed new approaches to grouping the students according to ability. By his second year, the passing rate in math jumped dramatically to the mid-90% percentile — an accomplishment celebrated by students, parents, colleagues, and the administration.

“From the start, I just fell in love with the students and the job,” said Chandler, who himself was diagnosed at age 48 with Asperger’s Syndrome. “It was so encouraging that we saw so much success so soon.”

Dr. Andrea Brode, Beacon’s former dean of student success, now a consultant to the study abroad programs, recalled when she first met Chandler: “I was struck immediately by his tremendous enthusiasm for teaching math to students who learn differently,” she said. “He became very successful in guiding these students, most of whom had been so unsuccessful in their past academic careers.”

Chandler acknowledged it’s been tough leaving Beacon, but still feels the timing was right. “You can’t help but feel some sadness,” he said. “I’m going to miss the students, my colleagues, the college and the supportive atmosphere there. But I think Shelly and I have taken this work as far as we can take it. It’s time to bring in new blood, someone who has new ideas and sees things that you might not see.”